MIAMI- BDN was on the scene to take in Duke’s 31-27 victory at FIU tonight. Here’s our Rapid Reaction.
Thriller in The Cage
Duke and FIU put on a show under the lights tonight in South Florida. Both teams excited fans with explosive plays and great effort. The game was evenly matched throughout. Both offenses had the upper hand early, but the defenses rallied to keep things in check heading into the 4th quarter. Just when the Golden Panthers thought they had the game in hand with a 27-17 lead, Duke senior Donovan Varner stepped up for a 54-yard completion followed by a 6-yard TD run by Juwan Thompson. There was palpable excitement in the stadium over the closing minutes, as Duke rallied to a 31-27 lead and the Blue Devil defense came up with a clutch goal line stand to force a turnover on downs. Duke’s offense picked up the crucial 1st down to seal the victory on a 16-yard run by Jamison Crowder.
The two offenses combined for 330 yards of offense and 31 points in the 1st quarter alone. Both defenses were on their heels and had no answer for their opponents’ dynamic receivers. Sean Renfree was 12/14 for 173 yards and 2 TDs in the 1st quarter; his favorite receiver was Conner Vernon, who had 5 catches and 76 yards in the opening period. T.Y. Hilton slipped past the Blue Devil defense for a 63 yard touchdown to get the Golden Panthers on the board.
After the blazing start, the pace of the game slowed in the 2nd quarter. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles threw several looks at the Panthers in the first half, including several blitzes and even a package with 3 down linemen and 6 defensive backs at one point. The adjustments did enough to disrupt the Golden Panthers, holding them to just a FG in the 2nd quarter. After putting up 17 quick points in the 1st quarter, Duke’s offense was halted by the FIU defense in the 2nd quarter and continued into the 3rd. Fortunately, Knowles’ defensive adjustments were enough to keep the Golden Panthers at bay and keep the Blue Devils in the game heading into the 4th quarter.
Running game struggles
The Blue Devils could not get anything going on the ground against the Golden Panthers, finishing with just 49 yards rushing. Desmond Scott returned for his first game action since week one, and Josh Snead saw his first game action of the season. FIU’s speedy defense was able to consistently hit the Blue Devil backs near the line of scrimmage and prevent big gains.
All-hyphen team comes up big
The turning point in the game came with 7 minutes remaining, as Duke’s Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo sacked FIU QB Wes Carroll, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Anthony Young-Wiseman at the 9 yard line. Juwan Thompson added his second TD of the 4th quarter on the next play, walking in untouched to give Duke the 31-27 lead. The two hyphenated defenders stepped up when the Blue Devil defense most needed it. DeWalt-Ondijo’s first career sack was a big one for Duke. Later in the game, it was the Blue Devil pass rush that ultimately forced a turnover on downs to seal the victory.
Off week ahead
The Blue Devils will enjoy their off week with their record now at 3-2 and sitting at 1st place in the ACC Coastal Division. Duke will have plenty of time to rest and regroup for a tough FSU opponent on October 15.
Sean Renfree 28/43, 335 yards, 2 TDs
Conner Vernon 8 receptions, 117 yards, 1 TD
Donovan Varner 7 receptions, 111 yards
Juwan Thompson 13 carries, 33 yards
Walt Canty 13 (8/5) tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass break-up
Matt Daniels 9 (5/4) tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Will Snyderwine 1/1 FGs, 4/4 PATs